Photo: James Law/GLORY Sports International

Any time a one-night, four-man tournament takes place at a GLORY event, there is always a chance of several interesting things occurring. The heavyweight “Contender” tournament at GLORY 50, which took place on February 16 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Ill., was one of those times.

The No.1-ranked heavyweight contender, Benjamin Adegbuyi (30-5), to the surprise of no one, defeated D’Angelo Marshall and Junior Tafa to win the third “Contender” tournament of his career.

But it wasn’t the night’s conclusion–the Romanian veteran adding a third Ramon Dekkers trophy to his collection–that raised some eyebrows, it was the unusual path the tournament took to get there.

Tournament reserve 

As with any GLORY tournament, there is always a reserve bout, which takes place during the Superfight Series portion of the fight card. The winner of that bout is then put on standby in the event of an injury in the “Contender” tournament. Haze Wilson and Anthony Mcdonald were the two heavyweights set to do battle in the reserve bout of the GLORY 50 Superfight Series, which was scheduled as the fourth fight of the card, but it never ended up taking place.

Prior to the start of the card, MMA Plus learned that the Illinois State Athletic Commission pulled McDonald from that bout due to discovering he had high blood pressure during his pre-fight medical examination.

McDonald confirmed to MMA Plus that was the case and explained he had three different tests to check his blood pressure: the first was high, the second was OK, and the third was high again, which led to the commission pulling him from the bout.

Wilson was good to go, thus becoming the lone reserve.

The Semi-finals

Adegbuyi walked through Marshall in the first semi-final bout of the evening, dropping the No.3-ranked heavyweight with a crushing counter right hand to earn the quick knockout victory. The official time of the stoppage was 0:36 of round one.

“I was good on my counter,” Adegbuyi told MMA Plus backstage after clearing medicals and getting the green light to fight in the final. “I knew he wanted to pressure right away, so it can be difficult for me. So, I just waited and boom.”

Adegbuyi continued walking toward his locker room to await the winner of Inocente vs. Tafa for the tournament final. Back in July at GLORY 43, Inocente defeated Adegbuyi by split decision in a fight the Romanian thought he had won. He was asked if he wanted Inocente to defeat Tafa so he could get the rematch against him.

“It doesn’t matter, Adegbuyi said. He was dialed in at that point, saying he needed to add one more Ramon Dekkers trophy to his collection.

In the opposing bracket, Guto Innocente, who defeated Adegbuyi by split decision back at GLORY 43 this past July, earned a unanimous decision victory over Tafa. The Brazilian ate a stiff right hand while attempting a low kick in the opening round hand and went down to the canvas in what appeared to be a knockdown. However, Inocente dodged a bullet after referee Josh Stewart ruled it a slip.

Inocente (L) rolling over after getting hit by Tafa

Despite the difference in experience, Tafa hung in Inocente and proved his toughness. But Inocente, on the strength of his low kicks, and more accurate striking, earned a unanimous decision victory. Four of the judges scored the bout 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, with the fifth judge scoring the contest 30-27, all in favor of Inocente.

Change in Plans

The tournament final was set. It would be a rematch of the GLORY 43 battle between Adegbuyi and Inocente.

Except it was wasn’t.

Due to a cut on Inocente’s left eye suffered in the bout vs. Tafa, the Illinois commission, after a routine post-fight examination, would not allow the Brazilian to continue on. Tafa, the semi-final loser, would get a second chance in the tournament, and step in to face Adegbuyi.

Naturally, that’s when some confusion began.

Many were wondering why it wasn’t Haze Wilson, the tournament reserve, stepping in for Inocente, as opposed to Tafa, who lost his semi-final bout. According to GLORY rules, the tournament reserve is only to be used as a last resort, which is why Tafa was tapped to face Adegbuyi in the final and not Wilson.

Tournament Final

Tafa proved his toughness, but was no match for the far more experienced Adegbuyi in the final. The Romanian tenderized Tafa’s left leg with low legs, sending him to the canvas twice in the opening round. Tafa did land a couple of good punches, but Adegbuyi never relinquished control of the fight. “Mr. Gentleman” scored his third knockdown of the fight in the second round after connecting on yet another low kick to Tafa’s left leg, which ended the bout at the 0:34 mark of round two.

After the bout, Adegbuyi told MMA Plus he wasn’t affected by the change in opponent.

“No, man,” he said. “When you are a professional you just focus. Doesn’t matter who steps in, you just do your job.”

Did he feel the end was near once he began to land the low kicks on Tafa?

“Yeah, I saw after the first low kick he already felt it,” Adegbuyi explained. “So, I just take my time, take my shots, [I] didn’t rush in. Let him see what he’s got and then, you know, just finish him.”

Now a three-time “Contender” tournament winner (GLORY 24, GLORY 35, GLORY 50), it’s a safe bet after winning his third Ramon Dekkers memorial trophy, you won’t be seeing Adegbuyi in another tournament anytime soon.

“C’mon man,” said Adegbuyi, making it clear he’s had enough of fighting two times in one night. “This is the third time. They have to know that when they put me in the tournament I will win it. They can call me ‘Mr. Tournament’ not ‘Mr. Gentleman.’ That’s what’s up.”

Third fight vs. Rico Verhoeven

Even thought Adegbuyi is the GLORY 50 “Contender” tournament winner, it doesn’t mean he gets an immediate title shot like it did in past years. GLORY has adjusted things slightly since last year. Now the “Contender” tournament winner is guaranteed a top opponent in their respective division, but not guaranteed a title shot.

Regardless, Adegbuyi is the No.1-ranked GLORY heavyweight, and has been for the better part of the last three years. He’s gone 10-3 during that time, losing twice to the reigning champion Rico Verhoeven, who he now trains with.

“It’s up to GLORY, but as for me, I”m ready,” Adegbuyi told Whitney Miller in his post-fight interview. “I”m always ready. If that fight comes, I want the belt.”

Both Adegbuyi and Verhoeven have said multiple times that they would handle it as professionally as possible should the third fight between them materialize, but GLORY seems lukewarm on the idea of a trilogy fight between the two teammates.  GLORY head of talent operations, Cor Hemmers, told MMA Plus that Verhoeven would likely return to the ring at the end of May or early June.

So, we will have to wait and see what will happen. But it’s certainly looking like Adegbuyi isn’t going to get a shot any time soon, especially with the rematch between Verhoeven and Badr Hari also being targeted for 2018.

Two potential matchups that are being bandied about for later this year in the heavyweight division, according to sources, are Verhoeven vs. Chi Lewis-Parry, and Adegbuyi vs. Jamal Ben Saddik.

Adegbuyi, who said it “Doesn’t matter” who he faces next, was asked if he spoke to Hemmers about who may be next for him.

Yeah, I don’t know,” he said. “They said maybe the next title fight is coming. I’ll be prepared for the title fight. I’ll be prepared for Badr Hari, for anyone. That’s it.”


Tafa was back at the fighter hotel (the Hyatt Regency O’Hare) later that evening and was hobbling around on his banged up right leg. He told MMA Plus: “My leg is f**ked. It’s OK. I’m gonna go get drunk.”

The Australian was adamant that Adegbuyi felt the power of his hands before defeating him and vowed on Twitter to be back “better and stronger” in his next fight. It’s worth noting that Hemmers had nothing but good things to say about Tafa later that evening, and told MMA Plus he was thoroughly impressed with Tafa’s toughness. The 21-year-old fighter has a high ceiling, and it will be interesting to see how he develops in future fights.

Inocente, meanwhile, took to Twitter to congratulate Adegbuyi, and ask him for a rematch, which would’ve happened had he not been ruled out with a cut on his left eye.

Lastly, Adegbuyi, who had an ice pack on his right hand after the tournament ended, had to get X-Rays to make sure the hand that ended D’Angelo Marshall’s night wasn’t broken. The Romanian veteran told MMA Plus he has a cracked fissure and it needs two weeks to heal properly.

That timeline will work out OK for him, though, because after the tournament was over, Adegbuyi mentioned he wanted to take a few weeks off before getting back to the gym.

“I will just take my break, two or three weeks, relax with my family and then get back to work getting in shape, staying 100 percent and being ready for anybody.”